Archive for June, 2019

6/20/2019 – Lenoir mills gain landmark status

Posted on: June 20th, 2019 by admin


June 20, 2019


By Virginia Annable
Jun 20, 2019 12:00 AM

Three former industrial buildings in Lenoir have been declared historic landmarks, pushing along a project to turn the buildings into apartments and commercial space.


The Lenoir Cotton Mill/Blue Bell plant, the Lenoir Depot freight station and the former J.M. Bernhardt Mill/Steele Cotton Mill buildings, all off College Avenue near Underdown Avenue, were approved as local historic landmarks by the Lenoir City Council on Tuesday night.


The designation allows for tax breaks for work on the properties, which are slated for rehabilitation projects by developers including Yorke Lawson and Tom Niemann, who bought the Blue Bell building and train depot last October.


Lawson said Tuesday that the Blue Bell building will be the first to be renovated and will be market rate apartments. The train depot will be next, and may be made into space for small businesses, he said, though plans are not final. The J.M. Bernhardt building will be last since it has the most damage and will require the most work to fix, Lawson said.


The project has been in the works for three years, since Lawson and Neimann were directed to Lenoir while in search of old mill buildings to rehabilitate, he said. This historic landmark designation is one of the last steps toward getting the project fully funded.


“This is a helpful and integral part of all the pieces we need to make this happen,” he said.


The designation allows the building owners a 50 percent property tax deferment, meaning they only have to pay half of the city and county property taxes as long as the historic integrity of the buildings is in tact.


Under the designation, the Lenoir Historic Preservation Commission, which is made up of the members of the Lenoir Planning Board, will review and approve all of the renovation plans before work is done.


Lawson said the developers’ mission is preservation and community development.


Planning Director Jenny Wheelock said the rehabilitations will be a major step in the right direction for the area and the community, and the addition of market rate apartments would help in the city’s efforts to bring more rental property.


“This a tool to help that progress,” she said. “I don’t think this is the silver bullet,” but it’s an important milestone.


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.


6/11/2019 – Granite Falls retirement community plans outlined

Posted on: June 12th, 2019 by admin


June 11, 2019



By Guy Lucas


Jun 11, 2019 10:58 AM


Developers hope to begin construction this fall of a new assisted living center in Granite Falls that would be just the first phase of a projected $60 million investment to build a retirement community.


Brett Waters, Jim Martin and Hamilton Ward, three of the principals in Spartan Holdings, presented an outline of their development plans Tuesday to the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors.


Waters said the group envisions a “continuing care community,” where seniors could initially move in and live independently in a house or apartment, then move to assisted living when less able to take care of themselves, and finally to a nursing home if necessary.


The gated development, to be called Grace Village, will be built on what is known locally as the Watson property, a 62-acre tract along Riverbend Road behind the Granite Falls Wal-Mart.


The 78-bed assisted living center will be the first new one built in Caldwell County in 20 years, Waters said. Facilities built in earlier eras had primarily semi-private rooms, but “that’s not where the market is now,” he said. The “vast majority” of rooms at Grace Village will be private rooms.


The facility will include a 24-bed “memory care” unit for residents with dementia.


A minimum of 75 jobs would be created by the facility, mostly for certified nursing assistants, he said.


The developers hope that construction could be complete by April 2021.


The second phase of the development would be construction of two apartment buildings, with the first completed in 2024 and the second in 2026.


Phase three would be the construction of a small neighborhood of patio homes. The current projected schedule shows construction on these finishing by the end of 2027, but Waters said this phase may begin and end more quickly than that schedule.


The final phase, which would require approval by state regulators, would be construction of a nursing home.


Martin said that many of the details of even the assisted living center remain in development as the group researches market trends and what local residents want.


“We’ll get a feel for what the community is looking for,” he said.

6/10/2019 – Lenoir will be home to one of Starbucks’ newest freestanding coffeehouses

Posted on: June 11th, 2019 by admin

619 Connelly Springs Road – Lenoir-PARTEND–

June 5, 2019


If you live or work in Lenoir today, and want to experience an authentic Starbucks coffeehouse, the closest one is sixteen miles to the south in Hickory or 20.8 miles to the north in Boone.


But come 2020, Lenoir will be home to one of Starbucks’ newest freestanding coffeehouses on Blowing Rock Boulevard, next door to Dairy Queen.  For those in a hurry, the Lenoir Starbucks will also offer a drive-thru.


This new location is only the very latest in a string of new private investments bringing iconic, national brands to the Caldwell economy.  Earlier this week, GEMCAP Development began site preparation at the Blowing Rock Boulevard location.


Caldwell Chamber president, Bryan Moore, and EDC director, Deborah Murray, marked the occasion with their own groundbreaking moment.  “These are exciting moments for our economy and need to be celebrated,” Moore said.  “These are the services and amenities that will bring even more commerce to the area.”


In recent years Murray has acquired by popular demand a bucket list of publicly hoped-for national brands.  “We have worked to generate interest and confidence in our community from these well-known companies,” she said.  “We work with property owners, brokers, developers, tenants—whoever we can to land the big fish.  And Starbucks has been one of those must-haves.”


VanGuard Associates, headquartered in Atlanta, acquired the Lenoir Festival Shopping Center in 2016.  The 144,239 square foot center is anchored by Belk Department Store, Tractor Supply and Bargain Hunt.  Fronting 321 are its outparcels housing Dairy Queen and soon to be Starbucks.  VanGuard specializes in leasing and management of its properties in GA, FL, AL, LA, SC and NC.  The company’s portfolio includes 45 shopping centers, several office parks and three nationally branded hotels.


‘We are thrilled to be adding Starbucks to our property and to the Lenoir market.  Starbucks is a first-tier retailer, and they were at the very top of our wish list for this site.  Retailers pay close attention to who is opening, and where, and Starbucks carries a lot of weight when it comes to the perception of a market by other retail chains.  We are excited for what this means to the community, and are indebted to Deborah Murray and the EDC for their diligence and assistance in bringing this deal to fruition,” said  VanGuard executive Tim O’Neill.


For more information, contact:

Deborah Murray at Caldwell EDC   828-759-3654


Tim O’Neill, VanGuard Associates, Atlanta GA   770-955-7709

6/05/2019 – Lenoir company one of state’s best employers

Posted on: June 11th, 2019 by admin


June 5, 2019



By Virginia Annable


Jun 05, 2019 12:00 AM

Good pay, benefits and an enjoyable company culture are what make Lenoir’s Blue Ridge Energy one of the state’s best employers, according to a recent ranking by Business North Carolina magazine.


The energy cooperative was ranked North Carolina’s 14th best employer in the magazine’s 2019 best employers list for small to medium companies, those employing 15 to 249 people.


Chief Administrative Officer Julie O’Dell said the company strives to keep its employees happy.


“We have a very strong goal of being a preferred employer,” O’Dell said. “We want to be an employer people enjoy working for.”


The ranking comes from information from a survey of all of Blue Ridge’s employees that asked about leadership in the company, corporate culture,

communication, work environment, employee satisfaction, training, pay and more. The survey results, which were completed by 97 percent of the company’s 220 employees, bode well for Blue Ridge, helping the company rise to the top of the state’s best employers.


This is the fourth time the company has been listed as one of North Carolina’s best employers, but its first as Blue Ridge Energy, O’Dell said. The company rebranded, giving the same name to both its electric cooperative, formerly Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp., and its propane and gas company, formerly Blue Ridge Energies.


Some of the things Blue Ridge is lauded for include its sustainability practices, encouraging members and employees to conserve energy, its pension plans, its health care coverage and its profit sharing with employees in the propane and gas section of the company.


The company also offers employees 16 paid hours of community service every year, allowing them to go out into the community to spend time working on something they care about, O’Dell said.


“They get involved in things that are … close to their heart,” she said. “I think that they value making their communities stronger.”


Blue Ridge also offers on-the-job training or tuition assistance for employees hoping to further their education and training.


“We want employees to have an opportunity to grow because we do make a strong investment in every employee who joins the team,” O’Dell said.


O’Dell said the company’s practices help keep employees happy and the operations running smoothly.


“We feel like the employee culture is critical to our company,” she said. “We have very low turnover — almost no turnover.”


At the top of the 2019 Best Employers in North Carolina is Transportation Impact in Emerald Isle, a logistics consulting company. Hickory accounting firm Martin Starnes & Associates was ranked 26th.


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.

6/05/2019 – Local officials welcome hotel

Posted on: June 10th, 2019 by admin


May 31, 2019


By Virginia Annable


Sparkling tan and white stones line the hallways of four orange-and-blue-carpet-clad floors of the new Hampton Inn and Suites in Lenoir.


The hotel opened at the end of March but received its ceremonial welcome from local elected and business leaders Tuesday, two years and two weeks after the groundbreaking ceremony.


The entire building seems to sparkle — colorful wall art and paintings cover the walls, bright accents like orange chairs and yellow coat hooks accent the rooms, and large white orb lights hang from a tall ceiling in the lobby, lighting a large room with welcoming tables and chairs.


Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said the hotel’s development is a testament to the county’s economic stability.


“This is a day for us to say this is one more significant investment in Caldwell County that shows a couple of things — one, we are worthy of investment, and two, we can support that,” Murray said.


The land was long owned by the Broyhill family and used to be an airstrip, among other things. It was sold to Sid and Arvind Maheshwari, principals at MRI Hotels, to develop the hotel.


The 85-room hotel is already taking off in popularity, Arvind Maheshwari said. There have been three sold-out nights and high online ratings, he said. The hotel also has the highest cleanliness rating among Hampton Inns nationwide, he said.


The four story hotel has an indoor pool, a meeting room, a fitness center, laundry and three types of rooms: those with two queen beds, with one king bed, or a suite with a king bed, a couch and more space.


Caldwell County Commissioner Randy Church such a big hotel has been long-awaited in the county.


“It’s great to be here and be a part of this,” he said. “We’ve longed for many years for a hotel as nice as this to come to our county.”


Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.

5/31/2019 – Hospital shows off new surgical unit

Posted on: June 10th, 2019 by admin


May 31, 2019


By Kara Fohner


May 31, 2019 10:40 AM

Renovations expanding Caldwell Memorial Hospital’s surgical area have radically transformed the unit into a sleek, modern space, where surgeons work with state-of-the-art equipment.



Dr. Jeffrey P. Keverline, an orthopedic surgeon, said that the biggest change is in the overall capacity of the surgical unit, which now takes up half of the hospital’s entire second floor and is at least twice as big as before the renovations.



The hospital has hired six new surgeons in the past two years, Dr. Ross Jenkins said.



The surgery unit is one of the jewels of the $23 million renovation project that began in 2016.



The rooms used for surgery are larger than the previous ones, with updated equipment. There are also televisions mounted above where patients lay, and new LED lighting that won’t make the room as hot as the previous lights.



There is also new equipment in an area used for urology, including a stationary bed, an advanced piece of technology used to hold patients and take one-shot X-rays from above the patient. It is one of around 25 in the country, said Susan Church, a registered nurse who is director of surgery.



Patients waiting for surgery are now separated by physical walls rather than just curtains, and they can watch TV as they wait.



In a room for minor procedures, such as colonoscopies, all the equipment is brand new.



Church said while there used to be a combined total of six beds in the pre-op and post-op areas, there are now seven pre-op beds, seven post-op beds, and six that can be used for either, as needed.



Also there is an expanded waiting area with comfortable couches, refreshments and televisions, as well as private consulting rooms nearby where doctors can update families about cases.



Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

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